Last time in our Beginners Landscape Photography Hints & Advice: Part 1 we touched the surface, now let’s take off the lid and dig deeper with some technical know-how!

Think About the Composition

You should always strive to get your composition correct when taking the photo, as opposed to relying on post-production. If the scene just does not appear right when you look at it through your viewfinder, then it won’t look right in the final output. There are numerous techniques that you can utilize to aid your composition (rule of thirds for instance), however effectively you will need to train yourself to be able to scope a scene, and efficiently define and balance the look, feel and mood in your mind that you wish to achieve. Over time this will become somewhat of a second-nature with practice and the use of references… most importantly though, be sure to take your time.

Use Neutral Density and Polarizing Filters 

An essential piece of kit for most landscape photographers are Neutral Density filters and polarizers which are an essential piece of kit for most landscape photographers. Often you will need to manipulate the available light, or even try to enhance the natural elements. For example if you are taking photos which include water, you may find you get unwanted reflections from the sun, which is where a polarizing filter can help by minimizing the reflections and also enhance the colours (greens and blues). But remember, polarizing filters often have little or no effect on a scene if you’re directly facing the sun, or it’s behind you. For best results position yourself between 45° and 90° to the sun.

One of the other big challenges of landscape photography is getting a balanced exposure between the foreground, which is usually darker, and a bright sky. Graduated ND filters help to compensate for this by darkening the sky, while keeping the foreground brighter. This can be replicated in post-production, but it is always best to try and capture the photo as well as possible in-camera as editing in post, in the long run, will reduce the quality of the final output of your image.


Use the Histogram

Histograms are an essential tool in photography which you should aim to learn how to read and understand correctly in order to improve your photos. A histogram is a simple graph that shows the different tonal distribution in your image. The left side of the graph is for dark tones, the center for midtones, and the right side of the graph represents bright tones and highlights.

For instance, if you find that the majority of the graph is shifted to one side, this is an indication that your photo is too light or dark (overexposed or underexposed). This isn’t always a bad thing, and some images work perfectly well either way. However, if you find that your graph extends beyond the left or right edge, this shows that you have parts of the photo with lost detail (pure black areas if the histogram extends beyond the left edge and pure white if it extends beyond the right edge). This is something you should avoid, so by seeing the evidence in the histogram, you are able to correct it by either recomposing the image or compensating for the exposure.

Never Settle for a Good Photo

This is true of any photograph that you are taking. It doesn’t matter if it is a landscape or a portrait, if you can do it better, then you should. But often because of the time and effort that landscape photography requires, people settle for a good photo, rather than waiting or coming back to take a better one. You should always aim to photograph anything at the best possible time, in the best possible way, even if that means waiting or coming back later. As with landscape, early morning or late afternoon prove to be the best times of the day, better referred to as “the golden hour”. Should you be in Cape Town with the intention of learning more on outdoor photography, I suggest you look up and consider attending a short out door workshop.

Shoot in RAW format

Simply put, if your camera is capable of capturing photos in RAW format, than I recommend you shoot in RAW ensuring that you always capture RAW files. They contain much more detail and information and are obviously a lot larger, providing far greater flexibility in post-production without losing quality. Remember, you can always save RAW files in whatever other format you require, but you will not be able to save JPEGs as RAW files, so ultimately you are limited to the quality at which the JPEG was shot. For commercial or professional use, RAW images are required. (Hint… make sure you have a decent size memory card).


For all the techniques and rules that exist to help aid composition and the process of taking the photo, there is always room to experiment. As a photographer you never stop learning. Digital photography means that taking a photo isn’t wasting a negative (and costing money), so there is ample opportunity to break the rules and your own style sometimes. Even if the majority of the time it doesn’t work and the image doesn’t look great, you have the opportunity to work toward perfection. Should you be visiting Cape Town, South Africa, there are wonderful opportunities to take in and capture the most perfect and unspoilt landscapes.

Landscape photography is one of the most common genres that amateur and professional photographers get into. With practice, hard work, and patience you can capture stunning landscape photos that will look great in your portfolio.